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Blade Runner 2019 writer Mike Johnson reveals how the new comic honors the film's legacy

By Jeff Spry
Blade Runner Slice

Blade Runner 2049 showed fans the future of Ridley Scott's sci-fi masterpiece, but a new comic series will explore the Blade Runner world's past — and our present. On July 17, Titan Comics will debut its much-anticipated Blade Runner 2019 series from Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Michael Green and comics veteran Mike Johnson.

It's a dive back into the neon-dipped future first witnessed in director Scott's original 1982 film, and the 12-issue series has a major link to the movies, as Green, who leads an all-star creative team, co-wrote the impressive Blade Runner 2049 screenplay as well as penning Alien: Covenant.

His writing partner Johnson has written everything from DC's Supergirl and Superman/Batman to numerous Star Trek-centric series for IDW. The atmospheric artwork comes via Andres Guinaldo (Captain America: Steve Rogers, Justice League Dark), who has perfectly captured the noirish tone and dystopian aesthetics so essential in depicting the harsh Blade Runner universe. Letters are handled by Jim Campbell, and its captivating colors are choreographed by Marco Lesco.

Blade Runner Cover

Blade Runner 2019's storyline is steeped in references and visuals inspired by Blade Runner's production designer Lawrence G. Paull, futurist Syd Mead, and visual effects artist Douglas Trumbull. The plot introduces a resourceful new female replicant assassin named Ash, who accepts an assignment to track down and retrieve the kidnapped wife and daughter of a billionaire industrialist, whose global business interests might be related to rogue androids.

Our timeline here seems to be slightly before the events of Ridley Scott's film centered around Harrison Ford's grim LAPD cop Rick Deckard and Rutger Hauer's Roy Batty replicant. The premiere issue elegantly reintroduces us to that future-noir environment of Los Angeles circa the year 2019 and nicely sets up the story with true grit and dark intrigue that invites readers to explore this strange-yet-familiar vision of tomorrow.

SYFY WIRE contacted Mike Johnson to learn about his revelations on Blade Runner 2019's worldbuilding, honoring the seminal science fiction film, diving into Philip K. Dick's source material, and what surprises are in store for eager readers when the debut issue arrives next week. After the chat, enjoy our preview of the first issue's gallery of vibrant covers and interior art.

What was the genesis of this project, and how did you and Michael handle the collaboration?

Mike Johnson: Alcon, the Blade Runner rights holders, have ambitious plans to keep the franchise alive and vibrant. When the idea of comics came up, and Alcon reached out to Michael about being involved, Michael asked me if I was interested in joining him. I try not to be an idiot too often, so of course I said yes. Given that we had collaborated on comics before, it was like getting the band back together.

What were some of the considerations or restrictions in crafting the story set in Ridley Scott's Blade Runner sandbox?

Everyone involved wanted to build out the Blade Runner world rather than tell stories with the characters we've already met. We wanted there to be nods and references to familiar things, so it felt like the franchise we know and love, but Michael and I definitely wanted to push the notion of what a Blade Runner story could be. And it was too good an opportunity not to set this story in 2019 so that it could actually be published in 2019.

Blade Runner 2019 Slice

Did you or Michael return to Blade Runner's source material, Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Michael was very familiar with the original book, but I had never actually read it, despite being obsessed with the movie. So the first thing I did was read the book and let my brain soak in it for a while. That said, nothing in our story is directly inspired by or tied to anything in the book. It's more Dick's spirit of future noir, and a certain melancholy, that I embraced and tried to evoke in this story.

Do you recall your first impressions of seeing the original Blade Runner in theaters, and how did it affect you?

I was just a kid when it came out, and I wasn't allowed to see an R-rated movie, which I didn't think was very fair given that Han Solo/Indiana Jones was in it, and it looked so very cool. I later wore out the VHS tape as I grew up, and it was a formative experience for me as someone hoping to tell stories for a living one day.

Besides her gender, how did you hope to distinguish Ash from other blade runners like Deckard, Gaff, and Holden?

As readers will see, Ash has more of a personal prejudice against Replicants in general, seeing them as symptomatic of a society that devalues humanity and cares only about the needs of a select wealthy few. She grew up on the streets of Los Angeles, among the crowds, and she feels very protective of that world, of the common person just trying to get by. She sees Replicants as a threat to that.

Blade Runner 2019 Slice 2

Will other film characters like Deckard and Rachael figure into your Blade Runner 2019 series?

I can't say too much without spoiling things. But the name Tyrell is significant, both corporation and man.

What are some of the societal similarities and technologies in the original Blade Runner correctly predicted?

I think the idea of a cityscape covered in glittering video billboards is very much a reality now, as anyone who visits Times Square or Akihabara can attest to. We don't have flying cars yet, but drones and automated vehicles feel like the first steps. Most pertinent to our story is the existence of dramatic wealth inequality, the idea that the masses drive an economy that ultimately benefits a privileged few.

I think Blade Runner is a classic not just for its groundbreaking visuals, but because it continually speaks to new generations experiencing the future unfolding.

Blade Runner 2019 Slice 3

How does Andres Guinaldo's arresting artwork best serve your hardboiled detective story?

Andres is not only a brilliant storyteller and draftsman, he is able to ground an expansive science fiction story in the details of everyday life in a way that is inherently Blade Runner. It's that mix of polished and gritty, of spectacle and street-side, that characterizes this world, and it's something Andres captures beautifully.

What was the most rewarding element or biggest struggle in delivering this Blade Runner project?

The most enjoyable aspect and the most challenging aspect were the same: to do justice to Blade Runner, which means the thrill of living and writing in that world, but also the need to do justice to the standard set by the films. We hope fans enjoy the result.